Skip to main content

Never Too Late To Retire Red Kelly's Jersey In Detroit

I recently got a comment on my Red Kelly feature that really caught me off guard. Here's what "anonymous" said:

As a Wings fan and someone who enjoys digging into sports history, it baffles me that the Wings haven't retired his number. He's easily the second-best d-man they've ever had, a key component of their dynasty, and a top ten d-man all time.

I had to double check to make sure the commenter was correct. Of course the Detroit Red Wings retired Red Kelly's jersey, didn't they? He truly is one of the all time greats. Surely they must have.

And of course they have not. When Red Kelly was traded to Toronto in February of 1960, Marc Reaume immediately took the jersey. Since then the likes of Tim Friday, Jim Leavins, Jeff Sharples, Rick Zombo, Mark Howe, Jamie Pushor, Uwe Krupp, Jamie Rivers, Cory Cross, Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl have worn the jersey Kelly made famous.

Kelly was the dominant defenseman prior to the emergence of Doug Harvey in Montreal. Kelly was an instrumental part of a dynasty that saw the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups between 1950 and 1955. In my books he is one of the top 50 players in hockey history, and one of the top 10 defensemen.

How could they not put #4 up in the rafters after all this time?

Now in Detroit's defense, there are a few other Red Wings who could easily be in line for such an honour, too. Marcel Pronovost. Norm Ullman. Larry Aurie and Vladimir Konstantinov have had their numbers removed from circulation but not truly honoured. And from much more recent memory how about Sergei Fedorov?

Kelly did not leave Detroit on the best of terms. But neither did Ted Lindsay or Terry Sawchuk, thanks to the tyrannical boss Jack Adams. But that should all be water under the bridge by now, you'd think.

Perhaps the reason the Detroit Red Wings have not fully honoured Kelly is because he went on to star with the Maple Leafs for seven more seasons and winning four more Stanley Cups. The Leafs honoured him long ago. And then he went on to coach them later, too. Perhaps Red Kelly is better associated with the Leafs than the Wings?

That should not matter. Red Kelly's contributions to a Detroit hockey dynasty should be better remembered. Retiring his number 4 is long over due.


Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M